Things to do: Cape Coral’s huge art festival is this weekend
Evelyn Longa, Special to Cape LifePublished 7:01 a.m. ET Jan. 10, 2017 | Updated 17 hours ago
John Jacobsen loves art. More than 30 years ago he started what has become one of the country’s biggest and most attended art festivals based right here in Cape Coral.
“Art to me is communication on a non-verbal level,” Jacobsen said. “It started when they would grunt and draw in caves. It’s just the way humankind records their feelings. It’s one soul trying to reach another through non-verbal communication. It’s a richer experience than what you can do in speech.”
The 2017 Cape Coral Festival of the Arts is this weekend in South Cape and Jacobsen and a small army of Rotary Club volunteers will once again welcome the artists and spectators with open arms. The numbers have become staggering as the festival has evolved with approximately 300 artists expected to be on hand and upwards of 100,000 attending the festival.
There won’t be any cave drawings, but the artists, who will come here from around the country, will display fine crafts, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography and sculpture. The art is available for purchase.
Beyond the art there are other attractions including a rock climbing wall and a kid’s area and activity center. There will also be plenty of food vendors with a wide variety of options.
There are a lot of moving parts to manage in order to make the festival the success it has become. Some of that Jacobsen and his team can control and some they cannot. In 2016, the weather presented some challenges unlike any that the festival has encountered in its three decades of existence.
“People came out in droves on Saturday last year,” Jacobsen said. “We had the best attendance ever on a Saturday. The weather was just perfect.”
But soon after the artists buttoned up their tents and the volunteers finished a day that began at 5 a.m., the Cape was hit in the early evening by a fierce storm that included a tornado touching down in west Cape and causing catastrophic damage to many homes.
Many tents set up on the festival grounds were blown over or severely damaged by water, Jacobsen said. The volunteers returned to the festival site, rolled up their sleeves and got to work picking up the pieces so there could be a show on Sunday.
Jacobsen said he will never forget the teamwork and camaraderie that occurred.
“Everybody came together to help each other,” he said. “The exhibitors, the volunteers … it was amazing to me how so many of the tents stood up.”
Over the years Jacobsen said he has pretty much seen it all when it comes to the weather from freezing temperatures to unseasonable warmth. But the tornado is a first.
“We have our fingers crossed this year,” he said.
Jacobsen said the artists are the only motivation he needs to put on the best show possible year after year. The Cape Coral Festival of the Arts is ranked among the best in the nation now. During the festival the artists’ work will be judged and awards will be given to the top three pieces of art in each category. There will also be a “Best of Show” award for the overall winner of the festival.
“The lifestyle these people live is amazing to me,” Jacobsen said. “They work for months building an inventory and then go on the road. They go from show to show for months. They are all different, but they are a bit like Bedouins.”
Jacobsen said the festival wouldn’t be what it is without the Rotary Club and the volunteers. He said through the years the festival has raised $1.5 million with those funds going back to the community through scholarships and other causes like helping to wipe out polio.
“It’s a wheel that’s running very well,” Jacobsen said. “We’ve worked out the kinks over the years. Everybody shows up and makes this event happen because the event is a beautiful work of art and it’s a labor of love.”
What: Cape Coral Festival of the Arts
When: Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: South Cape Coral on Cape Coral Parkway between Vincennes Blvd. and Del Prado Blvd.
Parking: Parking is available at all city-owned parking lots (Big John’s Retail Center and Club Square) at no charge.
On the web: capecoralfestival.com